We are a small informal group. We welcome both people who prefer to work as individuals but sometimes feel the Group can help in some way and people who prefer to work in cooperation with others. We occasionally organise outings and training sessions particularly for people who wish to qualify for a GCN license.
There is no subscription but members who sign up are covered by the ARG insurance scheme. We are affiliated to the Bedfordshire Natural History Society. We are also members of the Beds Heathland Forum. We have helped draft SAPS for both Bedfordshire Adders and Great Crested Newt.
At present much of our activity has been concentrated on specific sites in the south of the county. We are only too aware of how little we know about North Bedfordshire. In spite of large areas of arable desert Bedfordshire is richer in herps than one might expect. We have all the common species with the exception of the palmate newt. There are two introduced species: Midwife Toads and Pool Frogs, and one re-introduction: Natterjack Toads. The county is a stronghold for the Great Crested Newt. Much of Bedfordshire is very poorly surveyed. We simply do not know what is there. Parts of the county are under severe development pressure and there are not enough of us. If are interested please get in touch.
INTRODUCTION TO AMPHIBIANS
BRAG member and Country Recorder for herps, Helen Muir-Howie, is running a workshop on amphibians on Sunday 17th March 2013 from 10am to 4pm at Priory Country Park, Bedford, Bedfordshire.
‘This workshop will cover the identification, life history and habitats of the native amphibians found in Bedfordshire. By the end of the session you will be able to confidently tell frogs from toads and identify the different species of newt. There will be an afternoon tour of nearby ponds to see the animals up close and to practice the techniques of amphibian surveying.’
AN INTRODUCTION TO REPTILES
Two BRAG members, Helen Muir-Howie, the Country Recorder for herps and Matt Andrews, are running a workshop on Saturday 27th April 2013, 10am to 4pm at Stockgrove Country Park and Rammamere Heath.
‘This workshop introduce participants to the identification of reptiles in the field, demonstrate where to look for them and how to encourage them to occupy favourable habitats. It is hoped that participants will come to appreciate and understand them rather than fear them’.
These are both Wildlife Trusts training workshops. For non-professional the cost is £35.00 per workshop unless you fall into one of the categories which qualifies you for a free place (Ecology Group Member, Reserve Warden, Watch Leader, Key Volunteer) – though it is to be hoped that none of those would regard reptiles with fear!
If you are interested in either course email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you live near Heath and Reach? Would you like to help with a toad patrol this spring? If so Esther Clarke would like you to contact her: Eclarke75@aol.com
She has registered the crossing, which is on Leighton Road in Heath and Reach, with Froglife and is hoping to organise a Toad (and Frog!) Crossing Patrol with some local volunteers this March. Some of you may know Esther from when she worked at Stockgrove, though she now works for the Beds Wildlife Trust on the Chilterns sites.
Our local pond in Biggleswade, Richard’s Pond, has benefited greatly from the downpours. Over the last few years the vegetation has grown, and the water level has shrunk, to such an extent that there was little open water for the frogs and toads to lay their spawn. After the clearance of trees and scrub from around the pond (13 November 2012) it will get much more sun. Less water will be sucked out by all the tree roots as well. Next spring could be a good spawning year, temperatures permitting. Photos in the Picture Gallery (taken on 18 November and 30 December) shew the dramatic rise in the water level.
The Ivel Valley Volunteers organised by BRAG member Richard Lawrence (and including two more BRAG members) spent most of a lovely sunny day clearing the trees and scrub around Richard’s Pond in the Saxon Gate area of Biggleswade. This pond was dug in January 2003 (see Photo Gallery). Since then very little conservation work has been done because of doubts over its future – see Saxon Gate Planning Appeal in our ‘News’ section. Now that the appeal has been dismissed we have started to clear the willow which shades much of the pond – compare picture taken in August 2011 with that taken in November 2012 in the Photo Gallery. We still need to clear much of the vegetation from the pond itself so there is sufficient clear water for the toads and frogs to spawn.
See picture gallery for our visit.
The Beds Heathland Forum annual meeting, organised by Phil Irving of the Greensand Trust, visited two contrasting heaths: Cooper’s Hill to the west of Ampthill (good for Common Lizards) and Mauldon Heath (good for Common Lizards, Slow Worms and the site of an Adder re-introduction).
Cooper’s Hills was chosen because it has areas of old, woody, heather small parts of which had been experimentally burned earlier this year. The purpose of this was to create a more varied habitat with a mosaic of young and old heather. This burning seems to have been successful as we could see regeneration from the root stock. In another experiment the aim was to encourage heather regeneration by removing the top layer of wavy hair grass and soil so heather seed could germinate. This was done in areas where the heather had not been able to grow because of a thick mat of grass. Again this has been successful and we saw many small heather seedlings. Both these experiments will be monitored over the next few years.
Whereas Cooper’s Hill has a good cover of heather and is heavily used by walkers, there is little heather at Maulden, though there are three acid grassland fields designated SSSIs. Paths mostly take the public around, rather than across, these areas. Unlike Cooper’s Hill the Maulden fields are grazed. There flora in one, ex-Christmas tree, field is developing well and the area will be expanded by the felling of some poplar trees, planted by the Forestry Commission as an experiment some years ago. Even more extensive conifer clearance is planned this winter for the area known as The Hump. This already supports CL and SW and may have adders.
We did not see any herps. This was hardly surprising as the weather was rather chilly and dull. Four BRAG Members attended the Forum.